Adjustment of Status vs. Consular Processing

In this video, we discuss the difference between adjustment of status and consular processing.

What is adjustment of status?

Adjustment of Status is the process by which a foreign national applies for permanent residence, essentially their green card, within the United States. In order to apply for adjustment of status within the United States, the foreign national must have entered the United States lawfully (typically on a U.S. visa) and be married to a U.S. Citizen. The foreign national must not have entered the marriage within the first 90 days of entry to the United States. Doing so creates a presumption of fraud and the couple will be denied at the green card interview.

Example: The foreign national entered the U.S. on a student visa, and later met a U.S. Citizen. The couple then became engaged, and married in the U.S.

The process begins with the filing of the following forms typically at the same time:

  • I-130 petition for alien relative (signed by the U.S. citizen)
  • I-485 application for adjustment of status aka the green card application (signed by the foreign national)
  • I-765 application for employment authorization (signed by the foreign national)
  • I-131 application for travel document (signed by the foreign national)
  • G-325A biographical information (signed by both the U.S. Citizen spouse and foreign national)
  • I-864 Affidavit of Support (signed by the U.S. Citizen)

The process ends with a green card interview before a USCIS immigration officer at a field office near the couple’s place of residence. The purpose of the interview is to determine whether the couple has a bona fide marriage. Both the petitioner and foreign national must attend this interview.

How long does the AOS process take? Approximately 4-6 months from start to finish.

Important note: Once the adjustment of status application is filed with USCIS, the foreign national CANNOT travel outside of the United States without a travel permit. Otherwise, the foreign national will abandon their green card application and forfeit all filing fees paid.

What is Consular Processing?

Consular processing is the process of applying for your green card through a U.S. Consulate abroad. This option is for foreign nationals who are not residing lawfully in the United States, typically because they do not have a valid U.S. visa. Other reasons may include: the foreign national is unable to travel to the U.S. because of employment, or they are not eligible to apply for adjustment of status within the United States because they did not enter the country lawfully.

The process begins when the US Citizen or legal permanent resident, otherwise known as the petitioner, files the I-130 petition for alien relative, for the intending immigrant. The I-130 petition initiates the process. Once the I-130 petition has been approved, the petitioner must send additional documents to the National Visa Center, such as the affidavit of support to show that he or she can financially support the foreign spouse once they enter the United States, as well as other biographical documents. Once those documents are reviewed by the National Visa Center, the intending immigrant will be scheduled for an immigrant visa interview at a US consulate near their place of residence abroad. The petitioner does not need to be present for this interview. If approved, the foreign national will receive an immigrant visa to enter the U.S. Once the foreign national arrives to the U.S., the green card will be mailed to them within a few weeks.

How long does Consular processing take? Approximately 9-12 months from start to finish, although the time frame may be longer depending on many factors including the Consulate where the interview will take place.

Major Differences:

  • Consular processing is a much longer process of 9-12 months, while adjustment of status takes 4-6 months
  • Adjustment of status is only for individuals who have entered the U.S. lawfully (entered with inspection at a U.S. port of entry)
  • Individuals who apply for adjustment of status cannot travel outside the U.S. once they file the adjustment of status petition, at least until they receive a travel permit from USCIS
  • Adjustment of status requires the presence of the US Citizen and foreign national at the interview
  • Consular processing requires only the presence of the foreign national at the interview

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